In these divisive times, you don’t have to look far to find rude, disrespectful behavior—from pompous politicians to shaming online to the prolific use of the middle finger in traffic jams. In fact, it feels as if we’re living in a day and age of “every man (and woman) for themselves.”
Rudeness may give momentary satisfaction by letting someone know you think he’s an idiot, but if you care about your reputation and career, it’s wise to hold back.
Why Manners Matter
Importantly, good behavior shouldn’t only be reserved for the professional arena, but extend to all areas of life. Snarky comments on social media instantly blast out to the masses, and unsportsmanlike conduct on a sport’s field can raise eyebrows on both teams and in the stands.
No one, even the ardent fan, appreciates a sore loser or a gloating winner, and the steep penalties assessed in spectator sports—from red cards in soccer to 15 yards and a first down in American football—signify the taboo around such uncontrolled outbursts.
Bad Manners Make Negative Impressions
Keep in mind that word spreads quickly among networks of anyone who is victim of or witness to rudeness. It will leave an enduring negative impression of the person who inflicted the intentional insult. Meanwhile, potential clients, employers, decision makers—even acquaintances—may learn of the rudeness and doors may close on future opportunities.
For example, when a customer complains to a manager that a store clerk called him by an offensive name, the clerk is subsequently canned no matter the circumstances. Or, a would-be employee’s job offer is revoked after the hiring manager notices that she bashed the organization online. And, when a supervisor watches a gaggle of gossipers sneering at the recent hire, she takes note and no longer considers them promotion worthy.
Worst of all, rudeness is contagious. Research shows that everyday impoliteness tends to spread in the workplace. This leads to poor morale and high job turnover.
Always Keep it Professional (and Kind)
By contrast, kindness and consideration draw instead of repel others. In every interaction you have, even if the other person is horribly rude, remember always: you don’t have to devolve to his tone and manner.
The louder he screams, the softer your rebuttal should be. Stay professional—that’s what others will remember.
6 Tips for Good Workplace Manners
To counteract the undercurrent of rudeness that’s now vying to become mainstream in our society, become an ambassador of good manners by adopting these habits:
1. Practice Common Courtesy
Simple gestures, like holding the door open for the person behind you and saying “please,” “thank you,” or “pardon me” are ways of communicating that we’re all equals. Show courteous behavior to others, even those from whom you have nothing to gain. It’s a way to show people they matter. Acts of kindness never go unappreciated, and they build a kind of social capital.
2. Build Camaraderie
For the genuine professional, there’s no need for one-upmanship or making everything about standing and status. Think of yourself as part of a team, not a self-promoter or someone that keeps track of every favor owed.
Genuinely applaud others’ successes; and if you receive recognition for a project, share the spotlight with your coworkers whose contributions helped make it happen. In doing so, you’ll galvanize the camaraderie and goodwill of those around you.
3. Squelch the Rumor Mills
Negative comments about another coworker make the complainer look as bad as the person she’s bad-mouthing. Just say “never”—as in never contribute. Don’t demean a fellow employee’s work; leave that to a supervisor. Instead, when someone points out another’s problematic behavior, be the one who proposes solutions.
When you display self-control and a capacity to look for strengths in those around you, others will follow. (And what if the gossip is about a coworker’s personal life? The same rule applies. You can look at the rumor spreader and simply say, “I’m super busy today. See you later.” Or, depending on your comfort level, you can tell her that you don’t like to participate in gossip.) Stay above the fray.
4. Model Considerate Listening Skills
People who commandeer conversations in an attempt to upstage somebody else are all too prevalent. So are those who use negatively charged phrases (“You’re wrong!” and worse) to disparage the speaker. Such intrusions leave a bad impression.
Yes, we live in an age of self-promotion and bluster, but it’s smarter to become known for being a good listener. If you have something to add, wait until there’s a break in the conversation and then share your idea.
5. Cultivate New Talent
You’re indebted to the legions of generous teachers, supervisors, and mentors who encouraged your dreams and helped hone your talents. Look for opportunities to offer that same support to protégés starting out in your field.
Offer your time and expertise freely with no expectation of a return favor. It takes little time on your part to make an introduction or answer a few questions, but your small gesture can make an enormous difference to another’s budding career.
6. Spend a Few Extra Minutes on Your Emails
You are not in a race. So, instead of pounding out your emails, try sprinkling them with some polite words.
Try out words such as “Cordially,” “Best,” and even the occasional “Dear” (as in “Dear So-and-so,” if appropriate.) Instead of “hey,” use “hi.” And always thank people for even the smallest courtesies.
You Can Deal With Difficult People
It doesn’t matter if you are the CEO of your company or work as an intern. You can deal with difficult people, facilitate civil and constructive conversation, and navigate disagreements without devolving into displays of disrespect.
People will enjoy working with you more, and you will feel less anxious as a result. Rudeness is stressful. Courtesy eases the stress.
Guest Author Vicky Oliver is a leading career development expert and the multi-bestselling author of five books, including Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers and Other Office Idiots (Sourcebooks, 2008) and 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions (Skyhorse Publishing, 2010). She is a sought-after speaker and seminar presenter and a popular media source, having made over 901 appearances in broadcast, print, and online outlets. For more information, visit vickyoliver.com.